The Irish Language Betrayed by Dublin - Government Fails To Support Gaelic in European Union

The 1937 Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na  hÉireann) proclaims under Article 8.1 “The Irish Language as the national language is the first official language”. Irish Gaelic received full status in the EU in 2007 but since that time, with the connivance of the Irish government, derogation has been in place. Derogation has the effect of exempting the institutions of the EU from providing full translation of official documents into Irish and providing translation services for the Celtic tongue as is required for all other official EU languages.

In response in a highly publicized campaign, an Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Liadh Ní Riada, is putting the spotlight on the mistreatment of the Gaelic tongue by the EU and Irish government.  Ní Riada has been conducting her Parliamentary duties in Irish to protest derogation.

The actions taken by the courageous MEP in support of Gaelic has focused attention on this inexplicable circumstance whereby the Irish government fails to support the Irish tongue in the European Parliament. Multiple news reports have quoted MEP Ní Riada as follows: “It angers me when I sit in Parliament and I am told at the beginning of each meeting that an interpretation service is available in each language. Of course Irish is excluded and ignored.  Lifting the derogation will mean that 188 jobs will be created at no great cost to the European Union, but with huge ramifications for the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities…To create these jobs the Irish Government needs only send a formal request to the Council of Ministers to end the derogation. There is a deadline pending however. The Government will need to make a decision on this and request an end to the derogation by the end of this year. If they don’t lift the derogation now there won’t be another chance until 2020.”

The following analysis on the position of the Irish government is offered by the always excellent An Sionnach Fionn with the full text on the link below: “In May of 2014 the Sinn Féin member and Irish rights campaigner Liadh Ní Riada was elected to the European Parliament with the promise to seek full legal equality for Irish-speaking citizens of the EU. Since that time the daughter of the renowned composer and musician Seán Ó Riada has led her party’s fight to place our indigenous language on the same footing as the other national languages of the European Union. In this struggle she and her colleagues have been vociferously opposed by the elected representatives and officials of the establishment parties in Ireland, particularly the openly antipathetic MEPs of Fine Gael and Labour, who have sought to maintain the Irish language’s inferior position inside the institutions of the EU (the so-called “derogation” on Irish translations and translators which was renewed again until 2017 at the behest of the governing FG – Lab coalition in Dublin). It is bizarre that the current Irish government – like its predecessors – wishes to keep its own national and first official language legally inferior to that of every other national language of the European Union, even rejecting the opportunity to create up to 200 jobs for Irish-speaking EU citizens in the process.”

Should this derogation be lifted it is estimated that approximately 180 jobs would be created in translating texts as Gaeilge for use in the European Union. There will be excellent career opportunities available for Irish speakers in EU institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg as a consequence.


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